Is Media Malpractice a Form of Mental Illness?

January 19, 2011 05:50

If mental illness is the failure to comprehend reality, then many in our media are suffering from a form of the disease.

By Cliff Kincaid

If mental illness is the failure to comprehend reality, then many in our media are suffering from a form of the disease. In commenting on New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s false accusations that Sarah Palin and other prominent conservatives had some role in the Arizona massacre carried out by psychotic pothead Jared Loughner, Charles Krauthammer said, “The origins of Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness. What are the origins of Krugman’s?”

Unfortunately, Krugman is not the only major media figure making accusations that leave you questioning his mental competence. Consider John Heilemann, a journalist for New York Magazine who co-authored a book about the 2008 presidential election and appears regularly on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” On January 10, he appeared on the program hosted by former conservative Joe Scarborough and complained about the political period that he said extended from the late 1950s through the 60s and early 70s. He claimed, “That period got kicked off when Joe McCarthy started talking about people being un-American—the House Un-American Activities Committee. And people got de-legitimized and attacked in that way.”

In fact, McCarthy was a Senator, not a member of the House. The committee was called the House Committee on Un-American Activities and was in business years before Senator McCarthy began his investigations in the 1950s. What’s more, McCarthy was a Republican, and the House Committee was run by Democrats.

After making this elementary error, which is sloppy to the point of being ridiculous and embarrassing, Heilemann went on to say that, “The problem with a lot of our rhetoric recently has been it’s very similar—the attacks on Barack Obama as a communist, the attacks on the right as fascists…”

While trying to sound even-handed, in going after the right and the left, the erroneous focus on McCarthy was a tip-off that Heilemann is really upset about the criticism of Obama. It wasn’t clear who he was referring to, in terms of charges that Obama is a communist. This was another wild allegation he threw out but failed to document. But evidence of Obama’s Marxist mentoring by identified Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis is a matter of public record. Obama’s associations with communists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are also a matter of public record. Obama’s administration hired Van Jones and then quickly fired him after his communist background became too much of an embarrassment.

Heilemann seems to be saying that it should be off-bounds to objectively cover a president’s associates and his administration’s personnel. Indeed, this seems to be the purpose of the “blame the right” chorus after the Arizona shootings. It is a coordinated effort to silence conservatives critical of the Obama Administration.

If he had done any basic research, Heilemann would know that the House Committee on Un-American Affairs did admirable investigations of all kinds of extremists. It not only probed the Communist Party USA, helping to uncover the perjury of Soviet spy and State Department official Alger Hiss, but its investigations crippled the Ku Klux Klan. The committee also probed fascist and hate groups.

If Heilemann is truly interested in ferreting out real extremists, he should call for the return of the House Internal Security Committee, which is what the House Committee on Un-American Activities was later renamed. Despite his ignorant smears of the committee’s work, this congressional panel demonstrated how serious congressional investigations can and should be conducted. It performed a real public service and uncovered real dangers, as opposed to the false claims of “hate” advanced by such far-left ideological outfits as Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ronald Reagan, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, voluntarily testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. He cooperated with the committee because he recognized that its purpose was to uncover subversion and protect America from real extremists and threats.

Heilemann only seems interested in scoring political points and protecting Obama by using faulty research. What a disgrace that he rushed to judgment after the Arizona massacre and is given a regular spot on a national cable television program.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at

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